On the first really cold week in November, staff and students were in school early on a Saturday morning. They packed the dog food donations into the minibuses ready to take to the animal shelters just outside Chisinau, to support them through the coming winter months.
The leadership and citizenship from our students in supporting animal welfare in Moldova is a vital aspect of their holistic education and culture.
From the establishement of the school, it has supported local orphanages in our Botanica suburb of Chisinau as our immediate local charities. We also support the local community centre “La Vie” for vulnerable families.
On a national level, because the community feels animal welfare needs a stronger voice and champion in Moldova, we work closely with the UK based charity, FOMS, and their AREAL shelters for dogs and cats. We also work with an international charity working in Eastern Europe, Child Aid, that supports vulnerable families and children.
As the first international school in Moldova, Heritage International School has always promoted ideas of selflessness, integrity and altruism within our students, based on the idea that we are preparing global citizens and future leaders of society.
“The concept of charity support in schools can sometimes be handled in a meaningful but clumsy way.”
The links with specific local charities have often come about through personal contact within our school community; colleagues, students or families, asking us to look at providing material support as well as fostering an outward facing mindset. The Student Councils play a central role in this work.
The concept of charity support in schools can sometimes be handled in a meaningful but clumsy way if it is done badly. We don’t want our students to have some notion of “noblesse oblige” and certainly not of pity and patronisation. Therefore developing social responsibility and the concept of altruism through educating around issues such as poverty, inequality, welfare and the environment, goes hand in hand with the practical action they take.
One of the most important benefits for everyone are the connections it makes between our school community and our wider community. It’s breaking down barriers on all sides and it is also leading by example in this part of Europe. We have a duty to make sure we use our positions and power to support others for the benefit of us all.
The students are proud of what they are achieving and the leadership it is developing in them. They are not just raising donations for the animal shelters, they are lobbying politicians to tighten up laws on animal welfare and widen the debate on how to tackle the issues of stray animals as well as teaching good, responsible pet ownership.
International schools especially have an obligation to ensure they engage in their communities and are socially responsible.
I do believe strongly that international schools have a special role, responsibility and obligation in their respective countries. It goes against the very idea of an outward facing school to be in an isolated bubble, unconnected to their local and national communities.
“International schools have a special role, responsibility and obligation in their respective countries.”
As we have all understood in the 2020s so far, there are things like pandemics that don’t recognise borders and barriers and our interconnectedness is a concept all international schools share in their missions. We can hardly claim to be educating global citizens if we don’t first start with developing strong local citizens in our communities.
There are two stand-out moments for me since becoming director of the schools here in Moldova. One has been seeing the way Heritage gave the time, skills and expertise to our national education community from the start of the pandemic to our wider national education community. It helped schools to develop online and hybrid learning so all children can continue learning in some form and ideas are shared and developed further as we adapt in the crisis.
The second is our school’s Founders’ Lecture series and this year we have widened this to all our local state schools so their students can also benefit from listening and asking questions of politicians, academics, business leaders and innovators.
The international school shouldn’t and doesn’t stop at the school gates and boundary fence. We need to see more of the mentality of “Think global, act local” as we go into the 2020s and see our communities as the places where we can make a real difference.